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FANTASY FOOTBALL WEEKLY FEATURES

Tunnel Vision - Week 2
David Dorey
September 12, 2005
Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Marc Bulger 362 2
Kerry Collins 265 3
Tom Brady 306 2
Running Backs Yards TD
Willie Parker 209 1
Larry Johnson 121 2
Carnell Williams 148 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Jimmy Smith 130 2
Keenan McCardell 123 2
Larry Fitzgerald 155 1
Tight Ends Yards TD
Chris Baker 124 1
Alex Smith 34 2
Daniel Wilcox 78 1
Placekickers XP FG
Rian Lindell 1 5
Josh Scobee 2 4
Jeff Wilkins 1 4
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Giants 2 3 2
Colts 1 3 4
Bills 0 5 5

Week 1 Bumps, Bruises & Bow-outs

Mike Anderson (DEN) - Rib injury
Ernie Conwell (NO) - Concussion
Patrick Ramsey (WAS) - Neck sprain
Tony Richardson (KC) - Sprained knee
Javon Walker (GB) - probable ACL tear
Kyle Boller (BAL) - Hyper-extended toe
Johnnie Morton (SF) - Concussion
Jeremy Shockey (NYG) - Sprained ankle
Jon Hall (WAS) - Strained quad

Year of the Tight End - Part Two

Last season we witnessed an explosion of tight end receiving talent in the league as suddenly there were almost ten with big fantasy relevance. 2005 is starting out with the same use of the position and 11 different players scored a touchdown - or two.

What is harder to read is the fact that all the best tight ends were virtually "out of the blue". Chris Baker (124 yards, 1 TD), Alex Smith (34, 2), Daniel Wilcox (78, 1) and Courtney Anderson (18, 2) may not have been even drafted in many fantasy leagues. There were only three wideouts with two scores and tight ends had two.

Only Pollard and Shockey were no surprises as top ten tight ends for the weekend. Rounding out that list - Ben Troupe, Ben Utecht and Ernie Conwell. The year of the tight end Part two? Okay. Now which ones this week is the real problem...

It's only week one... It's only week one...

Before you start hating those draft picks, remember it's just the first week and matchups, preparations and team dynamics get in the way. Consider the owners who were unhappy last year with their draft picks after only one week:

Willis McGahee - 43 yards and still sharing with Travis Henry
Steven Jackson - 50 yards and still sharing with Marshall Faulk
Jamal Lewis - 57 yards
Julius Jones - did not play
Kevin Jones - 34 yards
Deuce McAllister - 57 yards
Javon Walker - 37 yards
Donald Driver - 39 yards
Tony Gonzalez - 17 yards
Jason Witten - 17 yards
Trent Green - 174 yards
Brett Favre - 143 yards and one TD

It's only one week.

It's just one week, dude

Before you go burning every free agent dollar on the player du jour, consider the hot properties after week one last year:

Quentin Griffin - 157 yards, 3 TDs (oh yeah, that lasted)
Thomas Jones - 105 yards, 2 TDs (we call this peaking early)
Rich Gannon - 335 yards, 2 TDs (hip,hip - last hooray!)
Vinnie Testaverde - 355 yards, 1 TD (did this a couple of weeks and then the high board for a dive)
Cedrick Wilson - 94 yards, 1 TD (hope you didn't blink)
David Terrell - 126 yards (and I am shooting water out of my nose as I read it)
Ernie Conwell - 32 yards and 1 TD (hmmm... maybe this guy is a week one wonder)
Ron Dayne - 45 yards and 1 TD (that split backfield lasted a long time... not)

It's just one week.

Oh yeah, now I remember

Last year we were treated to an unprecedented wealth of rookie wideouts. How did the freshmen do this season?

1.03 - Braylon Edwards - 2 catches, 16 yards, 0 TDs
1.07 - Troy Williamson - 0 catches, 0 yards, 0 TDs
1.10 - Mike Williams - 1 catch, 3 yards, 1 TD
1.21 - Matt Jones - 2 catches, 28 yards, 0 TDs
1.22 - Mark Clayton - 5 catches, 44 yards, 0 TDs

Not a lot of fantasy game winners there. The pups will grow though, they all have big paws.

Never, ever discount emotion

There were four games packed with emotion this Sunday and the results all favored the team riding high on that intangible. The Saints played their first game since the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and won. The Giants played at home on the four year anniversary of 9/11 wearing FDNY and PDNY caps and they won. The 49ers were at home in their first game since the tragic death of teammate Thomas Herrion and won their first non-Cardinal game since 2003. In each of these games, those teams with high emotions all wound up as victors.

Oh yes, and the Steelers were elated to go against the Titans defense. That is now so emotionally euphoric for teams that it could end up causing positive results on the NFL drug test. And they won.

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Lineup Yards TDs Tragedy Lineup Yards TDs
QB Drew Bledsoe 226 3 QB Trent Green 200 0
RB Willie Parker 209 1 RB Jamal Lewis 52 0
RB Larry Johnson 121 2 RB Domanick Davis 57 0
WR Frisman Jackson 128 1 WR Javon Walker 27 0
WR Patrick Crayton 89 1 WR Hines Ward 25 0
TE Chris Baker 124 1 WR Andre Johnson 18 0
PK Rian Lindell 5 FG 1 XP PK Matt Stover 1 XP

Huddle Fantasy Points = 145

Huddle Fantasy Points = 26

Sunday's Couch Commentary

OAK 20, NE 30 The Randy Ratio is alive and well and living in Oakland, California. Moss had about half of all passes thrown and ended up with half the receiving yardage. Courtney Anderson had two scores and was evidently the answer to a question we forgot to ask. The Patriots home win streak now strings into the 22nd week and although the Raiders led in the game, it was pretty hard to believe it was going to last. Correctly so.
NYJ 7, KC 27 The Jets impressive 2004 season is now really, really officially over. Chris Baker's TD right before the game ended was the only thing that prevented... hold on, I can do this... Baker prevent the.... deep breath... the Jets were almost shutout by the Ch... okay, let me take a swig here... 'hic'... THE CHIEFS DEFENSE ALMOST HAD A SHUT OUT!! Really. 'hic'... I mean Baker had 124 yards in the game which was almost more than in any of his three NFL seasons. Curtis Martin gained 57 yards on 20 carries unlike last year which I am now questioning as only a dream. The Chiefs had Priest Holmes run 22 times for 85 yards and a score but Larry Johnson had only nine carries for 110 yards and two scores.. big swig....'hic'... Is it going to be this wacky all year in the NFL? I mean I love you guys and all but man.... hey - she's kind a cute... 'hic'... you a Chiefs fan?
SEA 14, JAX 26 The Jaguars new passing scheme looked great on Sunday with Leftwich throwing for 252 yards and two scores to Jimmy Smith who could catch nothing all summer until now. Fortunately some things never change like the Seahawks secondary being as impenetrable as a bus depot and Fred Taylor having flashes of good form and yet never actually scoring a touchdown. You can write this down - Jags defense improved, Seahawks defense not so much...
CIN 27, CLE 13 Not a lot of surprises in this game other than we should have known Frisman Jackson would catch eight passes for 128 yards and one score since he had already racked up 203 total yards in the last three seasons combined. Reuben Droughns 100 total yards probably keeps him the starter while Suggs is out but mostly because William Green only had 12 yards on four carries. I still preferred the 48-58 game last year between these teams. Highly preferred.
HOU 7, BUF 22 The Bills maintain their persona of a big-time defense thanks in no small part to the Texans continuing to struggle offensively as they have all summer long. David Carr only managed to throw for 70 yards and three interceptions and that Andre Johnson pick you made last week netted you a cool 18 yards. Losman wasn't terrible and he wasn't great. He was exactly what the offense hopes he will be - a game manager that can run (6-31) on occasion. McGahee started slowly and was banged up early but roared back with 117 yards on 22 carries. Since your waiver wire opens soon and Rian Lindell (5 field goals) may not be claimed, Get Ready... Get Set....
CHI 7, WAS 9 ...Rmmflphm...wha? Sorry. Must have dozed off there. Ramsey was horrible and then got injured and was replaced by Brunell who carried the tradition except for the injury part. Portis (21-121) was the offensive star by design though Santana Moss showed up with 96 yards on four catches. Thomas Jones (15-31) had the only touchdown in the entire game but his performance is hardly enough to continue Benson as merely supporting cast once he reads all the way to the back of the playbook. Benson only had three runs for 10 yards but we'll see more of him soon enough. Kyle Orton's performance (15-28, 141 yards and one interception not his fault) would be considered poor on most teams but in Chicago expectations start at zero and then get exceeded so great start for the rookie.
TEN 7, PIT 34

(Note to self - change fantasy QBs every week to get the TEN matchup) It will be interesting to see what happens when Staley returns to health (if that ever happens for two consecutive days) since Willie Parker ripped the Titans for 209 total yards and one score. You want a bigger indictment of the TEN secondary? Roethlisberger was nearly flawless going 9 of 11 for 218 yards and two touchdowns and that was with ignoring Hines Ward (2-25). Chris Brown (11-63) and Travis Henry (10-35) had almost an exact 50/50 split on carries but at this rate, all their work will come in the first quarter before the opponents notice the Titan DB's are actually just JC Penney mannequins wearing helmets. PIT won't always look this great. TEN... well, they have country music and just so much else to hang their hat on anyway..

TB 24, MIN 13 It's probably bad enough to walk the gangplank in your own stadium when the Bucs visit, but the TB defense made the Vikes wear Hooter's uniforms and do the bunny hop as they went off the end. With Moss gone, Culpepper is the unquestioned leader on the team now and he proved it by leading all rushers (19 yards), all fumblers (2) and all interception throwers (3). If you watched the game, you must have noticed that it was like the Vikings were led into the Metrodome blindfolded while the fans all remained quiet. Then when the team was lined up for the kickoff, they ripped off their blindfolds and the crowd shouted "Surprise - Happy Game!". Ends up it was really only happy for Cadillac Williams when he ripped off a 71 yard touchdown run when the Vikes stacked the line at the end of the game.
DEN 10, MIA 34 Well hello Nick Saban! Watching this game was like being in the lineup room at a police station. After spending all of 2004 sitting behind a mirrored window saying "nope, don't recognize any of them", it's only week one and we got to stand up and point "Hey - That's the guy! That's Jake Plummer!" Mike Anderson only managed five yards on four carries before injuring his ribs thereby making that draft pick of yours seem a whole lot less "crafty". Tatum Bell had a nice 30 yard run to make the other 17 yards on 12 carries seem better. This new offense imported from MIN by OC Linehan had Gus Frerotte throwing for 275 yards and two scores and Marty "remember me" Booker had 104 yards and one score. The rookie Ronnie Brown only managed 57 yards on 22 carries but that's what we've come to expect from a tailback with a fish on his helmet. One more time - well hello Nick Saban!
STL 25, SF 28 You knew this was destined to be a bad game for the Rams when the opening kickoff had Chris Johnson catch the ball and accidentally step out on the one-yard line. Maybe it was team unity in the wake of the death of Thomas Herrion, maybe it was HC Mike Nolan bringing a bunch of defensive nastiness with him from BAL or maybe it was just the Rams playing on a grass field away from St. Louis. Likely - all three. The 49ers were pumped up for the game and they played better than anytime last year. The defense recorded 7 sacks and returned one punt for a TD. Rattay did not make mistakes and Barlow (14 for 22 yards) looks just as good as last year. Bulger (362 yards, 2 TDs) was still good though his one interception killed what would have been at least a tying field goal at the end of the game. This all happened just the right way for a 49er win and whether he had anything to do with it or not - bet Herrion looked down and smiled.
DAL 28, SD 24 Oh yeah, to think someone said "Hey, I know - let's tell Gates he'll get suspended for THREE games if he doesn't show up. That'll show him!". In retrospect, that wasn't the best decision by all parties involved. Brees finally was forced to use his WRs and McCardell ended with 123 yards and two scores but the interception on the Dallas 7-yard line at the end was a killer. The new 3-4 in Dallas looked shaky at first but held Tomlinson to only 72 yards on 19 carries. Patrick Crayton (6-89, 1 TD) will be one of the waiver wire picks in many leagues but he's still just a slot receiver on a team that prefers to run. If you want an even bigger sign that 2005 is a new season, consider that Keyshawn Johnson is now tied for the lead in the NFL for receiving touchdowns.
ARI 19, NYG 42 This was another emotional game being played on the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy and the first time that a NY home game happened on that date. It was almost a disaster with the Cardinals leading 13-7 at the half but it was all Giants, all the time, from the third quarter onward. J.J. Arrington only gained 5 yards on eight carries so the rookie has some work to do before thinking "Rookie of the Year". Kurt Warner's 264 yards went mostly to Larry Fitzgerald who had 13 catches for 155 yards and one score as the closest to a "star" that this game produced. This was one of those special team treats with touchdowns scored on a interception return, punt return and kickoff return. And props to the Giants organization for recognizing the 9/11 significance.
GB 3, DET 17 The reports of the death of the Green Bay offense were premature - they needed to wait until the third quarter when Javon Walker busted his knee. Ahman Green was effective with 12 runs for 58 and that may be his upper limit in volume the way the team is playing now. Favre managed to throw two interceptions and the best receiver was Driver with only 48 yards. Kevin Jones had a tough time rushing with 87 yards on 25 carries and no run longer than seven yards. Most surprising was that the greatest collection of first-round wide receivers not only produced a mere four catches for 46 yards, but that they were out played by old man Marcus Pollard (5-58). The Lion receivers will do more in games to come. The Packer receivers? Grab a depth chart and get religious.
IND 24, BAL 7 Well, the Colts come within 13 seconds of a shutout and Matt "money" Stover misses all three field goal attempts. Jamal Lewis gained only 48 yards on 16 carries and that included 25 yards on one run (do the math - not pretty). Boller (141 yards) left the game with a hyper-extended toe and Anthony Wright (214 yards, 1 TD) did what he always does - look better than Boller. When Wright came into the picture, Derrick Mason blossomed and ended with 8 for 99 yards. The game was only 0-3 at the half but finally Manning put some excitement into the game with two TD passes in the second half. Boller needs to get back this week - the Ravens play the Titans. If he doesn't, then Wright will look a whole lot better than Boller at this time next week.

Game-O-The-Week

This was a great opening weekend with the Chiefs sporting a defense, the Steelers having a passing offense and upsets by the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Cowboys. But the much prized Game-O-The-Week was a lock before the afternoon games had a chance to start. The GOTW was not only something that we wanted to see, it was something we needed to see.

New Orleans 23, Carolina 20

The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina was something that touched everyone is some way and makes me momentarily set aside my satirical "he's about to kick your ass if you don't shut up, David" brand of wit. Much like September 11th, it was an event that grabbed hold of the public consciousness and the spectacle of horror was almost surreal to those fortunate enough to only watch it on television. But it was real and presented short-term catastrophe with many long-term challenges. It affected literally hundred of thousands, if not millions, of fellow Americans. There were up to probably 1000 of them as Huddle members in or near the affected areas and as such, they are people very much like you and I. There but for the grace of God but mostly just a bit of geography go you and I.

We watched as the home of the Saints become both a haven from the storm and yet hell on earth for thousands of people for the better part of a week. That very place where we watched Ricky Williams struggle as a rookie, where Aaron Brooks was always fumbling and Deuce McAllister won me a fantasy championship became a storm ravaged shell encasing lost, frightened and endangered americans struggling not to lose all hope. People died there. A couple took their own lives. And as if it were somehow an equivalent to a football game, most of us could only watch.

Not to worry - this is not to be about tragedy or politics. I am not remotely qualified to write about that. But the point is this - these are all fellow americans far more like you and I than you may realize. And their lives have been reduced to the most simple of all needs - shelter, food, clothing and hope. My wife is fortunate enough that she has the free time to volunteer here locally with displaced survivors and the families she has met are not gang-bangers looting stores or shooting people. They are not people bent on "living off the system". Her first comment on them was literally - "they are just us". People who owned homes, owned small business. College students. Children. Corporate and government employees. Families that suddenly find themselves owning little more than the clothes they were wearing and the one other necessity of life - hope. To regain who they were, what they had and in some cases, already a desire to become even more than what they were.

With such a heavy load on them, a simple thing like a football game can take new meaning. It's not only a much needed and enjoyable time away from the reality of life, in the case of the Saints fans it's a link to who they were and still are. I was asked repeatedly why I never dropped all Saints players in the rankings from the distractions but I never did because the tragedy and aftermath can hardly be considered as a "distraction" for those most effected. Adversity can provide motivation and focus just as easily as "distraction". Playing well is a way that the Saints team can help people, even if only in the effort since that is all we ever control anyway. A way to connect with the fans. Give them that moment in time when they can once again be just a Saints fan screaming at Aaron Brooks or laughing at Joe Horn. Not a "refugee" or "survivor" or whatever name the media wants to stamp on their head. Just a Saints fan, a football game and three hours of normalcy. The game itself a way for the Saints players to focus on something else as well.

The Saints traveled to Carolina as seven point underdogs with a quarterback who threw far too many interceptions last year and a defense that stopped too few. A running back that had a down year for touchdowns. When the team came out initially on the playing field, it was not the normal trickle, followed by a mass of players trotting and walking and then a trickle again. It was the entire team arrayed in rows of four or five players, trotting out hand in hand.

By the end of the first quarter, McAllister had already scored once and the defense gave up a score to Steve Smith. Tied game.

By the end of the second quarter, McAllister had scored his second touchdown and the defense prevented any Panther points. Ahead 14-7 in a game they were wagered by most to lose, the Saints already had shown the desire and determination not to be a team worn down by the effects of a hurricane, they came to fight. They were not going to be any different than the team that won there last year, 21-18 in week 17.

After the third quarter, the score was closer at 17-14 after a Carney field goal was matched by a Stephen Davis touchdown run.

The final quarter had the Saints extend their lead to 20-14 with a 48 yard field goal by Carney. Then with six minutes left, John Kasay made it 20-17. It wasn't supposed to be this close but the Saints had not quit. With six minutes left in the game and a lead to protect, they drove from their own 19-yard line to the Panthers 42-yard line before Brooks threw two incompletions and they were forced to punt. Starting on his own nine-yard line, Delhomme thrilled the hometown fans with a comeback drive that reached the Saints 34-yard line with two minutes left to play and a first down. Goings ran once for four yards. Then Foster ran for one yard. On third and five from the shotgun, Delhomme missed Ricky Proehl so on fourth down Kasay nailed the tying field goal from 46 yards out.

Maybe with one minute left at their own 22-yard line after the kick, the Saints could have taken solace in their already surprising success and accepted the tie for a chance in overtime. But they didn't. Brooks hit Horn for 11 yards and after two incompletes, he hit Horn again for a 25 yard gain to the Panthers 37-yard line with 19 seconds left to play. Then Brooks hit Donte Stallworth on a five yard out which stopped the clock at 15 seconds when he crossed the sideline. With 15 seconds left, McAllister ran it three more yards up the gut to position the kick. And with seven seconds and the hope of a team and all their fans, John Carney trotted out and nailed a 47 yard field goal for the final score - 23-20. Saints win. In the locker room after the game, head coach Jim Haslett awarded the game ball but not to a person - he said it was for the City of New Orleans. Indeed it was.

While I had predicted the Saints would cover the spread, I had projected that exact score with the Panthers getting the final field goal instead. As much as I hate getting a game wrong, I've never been happier to be wrong. I've certainly never cheered for a team to prove me wrong before. I guess I was guilty of underestimating the fight and resolve and character of the team and hand in hand with that, the same of those thousands of people like you and I who wanted to watch their team play a simple football game.

Don't you make the same mistake.

Now get back to work... and be thankful for what you have...